WTA chief Steve Simon says he is “deeply concerned” about Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai’s whereabouts and his ability to “communicate freely, openly and directly”, following allegations that a powerful The politician forced them to have sex.
Peng, a three-time Olympian and former top doubles player, has been out of public view after accusing former deputy prime minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual abuse in a November 2 posting on the Chinese Internet, which was quickly removed by the Chinese. officials.
“Steve Simon has reached out to Peng Shuai through various communication channels,” the WTA said in a statement on Saturday.
“She has sent him two emails, making it clear that his reactions were influenced by others. She is deeply concerned that Peng is not free from censorship or coercion and decided not to reconnect via email until she was satisfied that her responses were her own, not her censors. . The WTA is concerned about his ability to communicate freely, openly and directly.”
A week ago, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he had spoken with Peng over a video call. The IOC released no transcript and only stated that Bach reported that he said he was fine.
The IOC released a photo via video screen shot of Bach talking with Peng.
The IOC said in a statement that Peng was “doing well” and added that he had requested confidentiality. The IOC did not say how the call was arranged, although it has worked closely with the Chinese Olympic Committee and government officials to organize the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, which opens on February 4.
Critics have suggested that Peng would not have called the IOC if she had indeed been free to speak.
Human Rights Watch has criticized the IOC for working with China’s propaganda department in arranging talks with Peng. The IOC has previously failed to intervene in other human rights issues tarnishing the Beijing Winter Olympics, claiming it should be neutral.
“The IOC has remained silent about Beijing’s abhorrent human rights record for curtailing freedom of speech and actively cooperating with Chinese authorities in defiance of alleged sexual assault,” said Yaqi Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Simon has threatened to pull WTA events out of China unless he has a clear answer and assurances that Peng is speaking freely. It is the first sports body to publicly backtrack against China, which supplies significant income to other sporting bodies such as the IOC and the NBA.
The whereabouts of 75-year-old Zhang, the man accused by Peng, have not been found. He has not said anything publicly about the incident. He resigned from the powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee nearly three years ago.
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